Rangers kick off their Europa League group stage campaign against Ligue 1 side Lyon at Ibrox on Thursday night as they go in search of three points against the French outfit.
Steven Gerrard’s side head into the match having won five of their last six matches in all competitions, with their last defeat coming against Malmo in a Champions League qualifier on the 10th of August.
After failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition they ended up winning their Europa League play-off game and will now be aiming to reach the knockout stages, with their journey to that point beginning with a group stage clash against Lyon.
It will be intriguing to see who Gerrard selects in his starting XI, with a number of options all over the pitch for him to choose from. One player who we believe should be handed a starting berth, however, is Croatian left-back Borna Barisic.
The 28-year-old was rested against St Johnstone at the weekend as young full-back Calvin Bassey was given the chance to catch the eye with a performance. Whilst he did not do anything wrong, Bassey was not able to offer the same quality on the ball as Barisic in the final third.
He was given a SofaScore rating of 6.80 and created one chance for Rangers. Barisic, meanwhile, has played two Scottish Premiership matches and averaged a score of 7.30 and created three chances, with one of those games coming against Celtic.
Last season, Barisic averaged a rating of 7.40 as he scored one goal and provided six assists from the left-back position. He created an impressive 2.2 chances per game from the back, showing that he has the quality to open up defences with his quality of delivery from out wide.
This is why Gerrard must unleash the Croatian against Lyon as he has the ability to unlock the Ligue 1 side’s defence with his ability on the ball. Playing Barisic would give Rangers another creative outlet in the side and pose more questions of to the Lyon back four, with the full-back able to create overlapping situations on the left to whip crosses into the box to test the centre-backs and goalkeeper.
Former Rangers midfielder Alex Rae once hailed his ability in the final third, saying: “He performs at good level week-in, week-out and has terrific quality in the final third of the park.”
The £18k-per-week left-back has proven that he can perform to a higher standard than Bassey and create more chances per game, which is why he should be selected ahead of the 21-year-old when the team news drops on Thursday night.